3-day WeekendZona excursions highlight rural destinations

Local First Arizona’s mission is to help advance tourism in rural cities and towns. A past Arizona Office of Tourism study found Arizonans were spending a whopping $6 billion annually on tourism in southern California alone. In an effort to shift even a fraction of that money into local communities, Local First set out to make it easier for Arizonans to discover all that in-state rural communities offer as destinations in their own right. Enter WeekendZona!

WeekendZona, just one of several tools and programs Local First launched to promote rural destinations, features guided three-day excursions into rural parts of the state.

Through these weekend getaways, participants enjoy local food, attractions, and activities. Oftentimes, they experience exclusive discounts and activities they would have missed out on simply passing through or traveling solo. Since 2022, WeekendZona has hosted trips to Superior, Cottonwood, Wickenburg, and Lake Havasu. Past destinations included Prescott, Wilcox, Ajo, Kingman, and many more.

Every community offers a one-of-a-kind vacation because each rural destination is unique in history and character. From an off-road tour in Superior to a river hike in Cottonwood, and a Wickenburg Old West cookout to a London Bridge walk in Lake Havasu, those both native and new to Arizona discover the many wonders awaiting them in their own state during a WeekendZona.

Next up: WeekendZona is headed to Winslow! During the weekend getaway, travelers will walk along the rim of the Meteor Crater, enjoy a hearty brunch at the Flatbed Ford, and stay at the historic La Posada. This trip takes place June 23-25! Join the interest list to be the first to know when tickets are available: https://bit.ly/WZ-interest.

In addition to guiding Arizonans through full weekend excursions to rural places, Local First also makes it easy to explore #RuralAZ through online community profiles on www.ruralaz.com. With more than 25 profiles and new ones being added regularly, Local First features local restaurants, arts and culture, historical sites, outdoor activities, and lodging available in each destination. With Local First’s online itinerary builder, planning your own trip is a snap; the website will email you all the details of your selected stops.

Other Local First Arizona offerings designed to help boost rural communities’ tourism potential include a Small Wonders Map that features locally owned businesses as the “places to see.” After all, it’s not the retail and restaurant options people can get at home that draws them to new places – it’s the unique local experiences and attractions that make a community a destination.  

When it comes to helping advance tourism in rural Arizona cities and towns, Local First Arizona works directly with different communities and the Arizona Office of Tourism and is a trusted partner across the state.

Local First Arizona

Not every state has a federally designated Rural Development Council (RDC), but Arizona is one of them and Local First Arizona is it. These councils help to advance rural areas socially and economically in a nonpartisan and collaborative way.

The signature gathering organized by the AZRDC is the annual Rural Policy Forum. This event brings together hundreds of rural and tribal stakeholders in a rural place to focus on rural needs, issues, and opportunities. The Prescott Farmers Market and a number of programs and agencies that serve all of Yavapai County were on the 2022 agenda.

Another resource operated by Local First is the Arizona Economic Recovery Center, which to date has helped secure more than $31 million in competitive funding for rural and tribal entities statewide, including almost $1.2 million for Yavapai County. This resource provides free grant writing and other capacity-building services to rural communities, tribes, and qualifying organizations.

To find out more about the Arizona Rural Development Council’s programs and resources, visit localfirstaz.com/rural-development. From the Northern Arizona Good Jobs Network to a rural youth research project, Local First is a rural champion working every day to better Arizona for everyone.